cheap food switzerland

Really there’s not any cheap food in Switzerland. But I’ve exhausted our fancy-meal experiences, and what kind of vacation in a new place would it be if we didn’t sample the local junk food? Lunch was easy on hiking days: we either took it with us or ordered something simple in the restaurant at the top of the mountain. (It’s not quite true that there’s a good one at the top of each Alp, but close enough.) Nectarines, butter cookies, beef jerky (aka American snack); unremarkable pasta pomodoro and ridiculously priced orange Fanta.

Packed in

Candy bar at an Alp-top restaurant

On the first day we lunched before we hiked, having walked through the town in the morning and visited the farmer’s market on our way back. We took a roast chicken, a pint of blackberries, and a couple of rolls back to the hotel room. We had no plates or utensils or napkins, but we did try to bundle the bones up neatly before throwing them in the trash. We figured the maids would decide we were barbaric, probably Albanians.

We spent a couple of days mainly in Lugano, recovering from hikes, relaxing, and doing a bit of work. These necessitated finding lunch. One of those days we wandered over to the university, so that J-P could scope it out pre-conference. Bar Lando introduced us to two novelties. The first was the Swiss panini. (I should note that a few lunch places advertised themselves as paninotecas, a word I hope to adopt into my vocabulary.) It seems that the kebab stands’ flatbread (referred to as durum) has caught on, because that’s what our grilled sandwiches came clothed in. They were folded into roughly triangular shapes, so I christened them Switalian quesadillas. Mine was filled with brie, salami, and a kind of cole slaw, which made me consider a wider world of fillings to put between flour tortillas back home.

The second novelty at Bar Lando was Rivella. J-P ordered one for each of us, and when I asked him what it was, he said, “I don’t know. Some sort of aperitif thing, not sure if it’s alcoholic…it’s all over the signs and umbrellas.” Rivella turns out to be a kind of soda, made mostly of whey, besides the usual fizzy water and sugar. How very Swiss. It’s not bad, at least in its red and green versions. The low-cal blue kind was kind of cloying, and we never did try the yellow.


Another downmarket lunch, this one at Mercato Migros (the supermarket nearest our hotel), yielded some mediocre pizza notable mostly for its sprinkling of capers and the nifty slice-shaped plates it came on. Dessert was a package of what we can only refer to as Kinder things. The wrapper (around the five-pack; we’re not big on caution) depicted things that looked like ice cream sandwiches…but were merely refrigerated. We could just make out something about “milk solids.” How could we resist?

Inside were five facsimiles of ice cream sandwiches. We had no way to identify the filling (even the internet doesn’t discuss these things, at least not in English), but it definitely involved milk solids. Imagine an unnaturally white substance with a texture like a shelf-stable whipped cream. The “cookies” were basically stale, brown sheets of sponge cake. The whole thing tasted vaguely of bubble gum. I made J-P take the fifth one, and we figured the debris only further confirmed our barbarity to the maids.


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